Staff from Auckland’s Unitec Institute of Technology may have spent the past three weeks in COVID-19 lockdown, but they’re still managing to visit the staffroom, keep fit and trade recipe ideas with their colleagues
Unitec’s Sustainability and Wellbeing team has mobilised its team of in-house experts and introduced a range of online activities and initiatives to ensure Unitec staff remain well supported while working and teaching from home during lockdown. The team has shared tips on everything from setting up an ergonomic home office and creating work-life schedules, to positive thinking and advice on mental health. In turn, staff have set up online chat groups to share ideas for work and home life, including etiquette for online team meetings and keeping children entertained at home.
A group from Unitec’s School of Computing and Information Technology have set up a Virtual Staffroom, where people can pop in and out for as long as they please, socialise rather than “talk shop”, and share family news, recipe ideas and gardening tips. Other staff are keeping up with their weekly Te Reo Māori lessons and waiata sessions via Zoom.
Mary Johnston, Unitec’s Executive Director, People and Infrastructure, said, “Our staff have adapted incredibly well to working and teaching from home and it was through their sheer hard work that we were able to turn to online teaching within four days of the campus closing its doors for lockdown.
“It’s been great to see some of the innovative ideas that staff have come up with to keep each other motivated and help stay connected.”
The Unitec Staff Wellness programme features activities run voluntarily by Unitec staff, all of whom were happy to set up online options so people could continue to engage in their regular wellness sessions.
Registered Nutritionist and Senior Lecturer in Unitec’s School of Community Studies, Mikki Williden, is sharing tips on nutrition, sleep and immunity via online posts, urging staff to keep up their Vitamin D intake and drink plenty of water.
Unitec’s Director of Enrolments and Academic Operations, Dan Brady, is running online boot camp sessions for staff, introducing a range of different exercises each week. Two of Dan’s team are also involved in the online wellness programme; Urvashi Shinde teaches Bollywood dancing while Nirmala D’Souza facilitates twice-weekly meditation sessions, using a range of breathing techniques for stress management and overall wellbeing.
The welfare of staff and students is being monitored closely during lockdown.
Ms Johnston’s Human Resources team is making personal calls to all Unitec’s academic and support staff, answering questions and advising on issues including mental wellbeing, IT set-up and juggling work-life balance under lockdown. And the resources of Unitec’s Learner Outreach Project (LOP), established last year to support students and facilitate a better understanding of their needs, has been expanded under lockdown with staff from across the institution offering their support to make direct contact with students.
Annette Pitovao, Director of Student Success at Unitec, said “We’ve been very encouraged to see that students are supporting each other across a variety of platforms, forming chat groups and online tutorial groups to actively stay connected. The success of our students remains our key focus.”
Unitec has been teaching its students online since Monday, 30 March; just a few days after the campus was first closed due to lockdown. Online teaching will resume after the mid-Semester break on Tuesday, 28 April.